MIRRECO is among an expanding group of Australian innovators who see the vast potential of industrial hemp. Founder Richard Evans (on the left) recently showed me around their new Kensington site and told me about the WA startup’s vision for “climate leadership” through collaborations with growers, builders and others. MIRRECO is commercialising portable hemp processing machines, building products, and 3D printable and structural hemp. Richard’s vision of the future? Strong, high-value, quickly-made products, made from quick-growing hemp plants that can quickly sequester carbon. But the really exciting part of all this, he tells me, is “being surrounded by like-minded people who want to make a positive difference.”
Hydrogen has been in the news a lot lately as a possible fuel of the future. Hydrogen Technologies are looking elsewhere, though, and see massive potential in hydrogen for health, another industry on the up and up. Jim Wilson on my left leads a team that makes precision-engineered electrolysis machines that can get “molecular hydrogen” out of distilled water. This has applications in numerous industries, says Jim, including aquaculture, food, and animal care. They’re still in startup mode, but are already achieving export successes.
Another strong family business! Bestlan is a big employer in Townsville, and their processed fruits, pulps, purees and pastes are found everywhere. You might not have heard of them, but you’ve almost certainly eaten their delicious output in foods like yoghurts, cereals and muesli bars. They’ve been going since 1986, and at this impressive purpose-built factory since 2007. They’re a good example of the clean, green brand Australian food exporters enjoy, and the lower dollar has been good news for their exports.
Fab visit to CSF, a dynamic, award-winning Mt Isa business operating in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Custom Steel Fab engineers and manufactures heavy-duty solutions, including for the mining, civil and construction markets. Owner/director Travis isn’t just running a prosperous manufacturing business, though. If you get a minute, have a look at Off Road Anglers, which he stars in with two of his Mt Isa mining industry mates.
We saw plenty of experienced heavy engineering experts serving Mount Isa’s miners. Barkly covers an area from NT “to the Bowen Basin and everywhere in between.” They’re one of a few companies up here I was lucky enough to see, and they all seem to be succeeding through industry expertise as well as investing in their equipment and people. Barkly has found it useful to focus on upskilling locals, as it’s easier than importing talent.
Love to see another example that regional manufacturing is moving. HardRok Engineering is great family business investing in its people and equipment, and seeking input from outside organisations to stay up to date. This Mt Isa heavy engineering company just invested in a new plasma cutter, another addition to an impressive set of design, engineering and fabrication capabilities. Great big autoclave, too.
The circular economy might just be catching on with some, but it’s old news for FNQ Plastics. This Cairns-based company FNQ was founded in 2007, and makes things like fence panels and street furniture out of recycled polymers. They’re a small team that knows the value of collaboration, and they work with retailers, the council, the Master Builders Association and others. They’ve even established their own circular economy network in the region.
Select Harvests has over 10,000 acres of almond orchards over three states, and also manufacture nuts and muesli. I learned that on my visit. I also learned that almonds aren’t a nut, but that’s by the by. SH is highly-efficient, and save on their power bills by biomass cogeneration plant. They’re also upskilling locals rather than looking to Melbourne for workers. Regional jobs, primary production to high-value retailed goods, and waste to value. Pretty impressive.
Imagine you could turn cane toads into gold? Charlie Carp doesn’t do that, exactly, but they do the next best thing. This ugly thing I’m holding? An invasive species, and the scourge of the Murray River. Charlie Carp take a pest and turn it into a great liquid fertiliser, and with huge export potential. They’re also investing in new technology, diversifying into fertiliser pellets, and growing jobs. Another regional manufacturer taking on the world!
Fantastic to have been around to hand an Advance Award to Adam Gilmour. Gilmour Space is one of our Queensland members, and they’re busy designing, building and testing rockets for the booming small satellite launch market. They also creating high-skilled jobs for Aussies, and doing it through collaboration and smarts. If all goes to plan, they’ll be in orbit in 2021.
Love a visit to Albury, especially when it involves Geofabrics. They’ve been making geosynthetics here since 1987, and their products are everywhere. We’re supporting their project to bring automated thermally-bonded geocomposite manufacturing (isn’t that a mouthful?) to Australia. They’re teaming up with RMIT Uni and local companies QEDS and RMR Engineering for this. Robotics plus innovation plus manufacturing equals more regional jobs.
Me and the champs! Chamberlain Group won Manufacturer of the Year at the Hunter Manufacturing Awards in October. Back in 2015 they took the plunge on a robotic cell, then added another this year, and might add another soon. What’s happened to their workforce, you ask? They’re looking to put more people on. Chamberlain is making their door opening systems at higher quality, and the market keeps wanting more. Automation can lead to jobs growth. Awards too.